Monday, May 18, 2015

The Peralta Stone Maps

May 11, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The topic of the Peralta Stone maps is one of the most interesting subjects associated with the Superstition Mountain area. The maps continue to mystify and confuse those who try to interpret them. These four stone maps have probably created more controversy than any other topic involving the Superstition Wilderness Area. The greatest amount confusion involving these maps is associated with their origin and whether they are genuine or not. The origin of these stone maps is dubious at best and still causes heated discussions among historians and treasure hunters. Stories about the stone maps vary from storyteller to storyteller as to their authenticity. Many periodicals have been written about the Peralta Stone Maps over the past three decades without any conclusive or sound evidence pointing to their true origin or meaning.

Old “Doc” Ludwig G. Roscrans told me he saw the stone maps about three weeks after they were discovered near Florence Junction in 1949. He said he talked to the Mexican bracero (laborer) who had discovered the maps originally and then sold them to a tourist from Oregon. Today there are many versions of that story.
The stone maps were unearthed near
Florence Junction in 1949 by a
Mexican bracero (laborer).

Bob Ward took me to a location east of Black Point, pointed to a hole and said that was were the stone maps were recovered. Bob arrived in the area about 1958. The strongest oral evidence suggests the maps were discovered near Black Point. However, all of this information is based on subjective testimony.  

The stone maps are an excellent piece of art in many respects. It is obvious whoever carved the stone maps was familiar with carving stone. There are those who claim the stone maps are made of material that cannot be found in this area. The stone maps, according to some, are made out of soft sandstone more conducive to the Colorado Plateau region in northeastern Arizona than the desert areas around the Superstition Wilderness Area.  However, there are some very soft pseudo-sandstone rocks near Oak Flats between Superior and Miami that might have yielded the material for these maps.

According to Robert L. Garman, a Mexican bracero who worked for John Hart building a fence near the north bank of Queen Creek east of the highway (U.S. Highway 60-70), made the original discovery. The fence was aligned east to west near Black Point. The bracero, while setting posts for this fence, noticed an unusually large flat stone in the side of his posthole. He worked the stone lose and found it had cryptic writing on it. He also recognized a Spanish word. He noticed the rock was covered with Indian petroglyphs and some Spanish markings. Not understanding the significance of his discovery the Bracero hauled the stone to Florence Junction, a few miles away. He planned on selling the stone to a passing tourist for a few dollars.

He arrived at Florence Junction after walking and lugging the flat stone some three miles.  He borrowed a water hose at the service station and washed the stone off carefully preparing it for a curious tourist. He found such a person in Robert G. Tummilson of Portland, Oregon. Tummilson, a retired police officer, examined the rock and decided a fair price would be $10.00. This was almost a week’s wages for the Mexican laborer. Tummilson was now the proud owner of a stone with some cryptic writing on it.

After this interesting purchase, Tummilson continued his journey on to Phoenix to visit his brother. Once at his brother’s house Tummilson decided to wash the rock thoroughly and re-examine it. Tummilson and his brother immediately recognized this was no ordinary petroglyph of Native American origin, but some kind of coded map in Spanish. The two brothers were convinced the stone slab was Spanish or Mexican in origin.

The so-called Peralta Stone Maps have changed hands several times over the past fifty years. These mysterious slabs of rock have been called frauds by historians since their discovery in 1949.There are other interesting scenarios about the origin of these stone maps.

There are claims the stone maps were found on the Gila River near Dos Lomas. If indeed these stone maps were found by the Tummilson brothers as they claimed and if a Mexican bracero actually found them, why wasn’t the discovery better documented with more photographs, notes and field sketches. Tummilson was a retired police officer trained in accurate note taking and crime scene preservation. The same type of training also applies to a point of discovery. The lack of evidential commitment at the discovery site of the stone slabs seriously damages the authenticity of the discovery. There is a counter argument to evidential commitment at the site. It could be, according to Garman and others, Tummilson wanted to control all of the information disseminated about the stone maps. This is not a sound argument in itself because Tummilson had no idea what he had discovered. He did not know if they were authentic or fraudulent.

Robert L. Garman did not provide all of the foregoing information. Some of the information came from “Doc” Rosecrans and others interested in the stone maps. Doc Rosecrans had a copy of the photograph of the maps on Tummilson’s car given to him by Tummilson himself. Tummilson died and the stone maps eventually changed hands. The stones emerged again in the early 1960’s. There were very few people who knew about the stone maps existence prior to1962.

Clarence O. Mitchell met Tumilson’s widow and was able to convince her he could decipher the stone maps. Once Mitchell had the stone maps in his possession he decided to form a stock investment corporation based on solving this mystery. Mitchell and his wife organized the M.O.E.L. Corporation in Nevada and began a stock selling campaign among their friends and close associates. The M.O.E.L Corporation soon flourished when Mitchell convinced investors he needed money to search for the treasure indicated by the stone maps. According to documents Mitchell and his wife raised more than $70,000 over a two-year period. They were so successful in Nevada they decided to branch out into Arizona.

Mitchell began searching the Superstition Mountain area for the site he believed was indicated on the stone maps. He was very secretive about all of his operations in the Superstition Mountains. Mitchell received a big break when he convinced a naïve freelance writer to tell his story in Life magazine in 1964. This July, 1964 article brought unbelievable notoriety for Mitchell and his now famous Peralta Stone Maps. A photograph in the article showed Mitchell crouched down behind a rock hiding from people he claimed were trying to find his treasure site.

The article revealed for the first time public photographs of the stone maps. Certain markings on the maps were covered with black tape. These photographs fired the imagination of this nation’s treasure hunting society.

Early in 1965 Mitchell released a book he wrote under the nom de plume Travis Marlowe titled Superstition Treasures published by the Tyler Printing Company, Phoenix, Arizona. By late 1968 Mitchell had milked his golden cow just about dry. Mitchell made many investments in the Tucson area when he moved there from Apache Junction. He and Tummilson’s widow donated the stone maps to the Flagg Foundation who in turn loaned them to the Arizona Mineral Museum. Finally, both Arizona and Nevada ordered Mitchell to decease selling stock in the M.O.E.L. Corporation or he would be indicted for fraud.

The so-called Peralta Stone Maps did not go away. The Flag Foundation asked to put them on display. They appeared at the Don’s Club Trek, First National Bank, Arizona, Arizona State Mineral Museum and finally the Mesa Southwest Museum.

The Mesa Southwest Museum returned the stone maps to the Arizona State Mineral Museum in Phoenix in the early 1990’s. The State Mineral Museum continued public display of the maps helped to perpetuate their legacy. Eventually the Stone Maps were taken off public display at the Arizona State Mineral Museum.

Today the Peralta Stone Maps are on display at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction. They will be on display there until 2017.

Barry Storm, in 1967, wrote an article for Treasure Hunters, in an attempt to decipher the Peralta Stone Maps. At this point you must remember, Barry Storm was the “Dean of the Treasure Hunters” in America. Storm’s feeble attempt to explain the stone maps led to more confusion and consternation among those who knew the stone maps were probably a fraud. Storm’s work was followed by a variety of writers, photographers and filmmakers using the stone maps as a factual source for treasure hunting in the Superstition Mountain area.

More than ninety per cent of the fraudulent schemes involving the Superstition Mountains are perpetrated with the so-called Peralta Stone Maps. Those seeking a huge return on the investment they had made or the super greedy who are often caught up in schemes such as those perpetrated by the use of the Peralta Stone Maps. Con artists are always looking for something to lure their investors. The only con artist successfully prosecuted by the law for using the stone maps in a fraudulent manner was Robert Simpson Jacob better known as “Crazy Jake.” Jacob and his various schemes have become legendary in the Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Scottsdale areas.

“Crazy Jake”, as he liked to be called, operated a base camp in Squaw Box Canyon in the early days (1965-1978) then moved his operation to the western edge of Peter’s Mesa just above Squaw Box Canyon.

When Robert Simpson Jacob was indicted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in 1986, it is estimated he had defrauded more than thirty million dollars out of the private sector. Investigators for the Attorney General’s office were able to document some nine million dollars Jacob had acquired. Today, little or none of this money has been found or accounted for. Jacob spent the rest frivolously it is believed by the investigators. Jacob was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined $145,000. He was released from prison in 1991 after serving three years.

Jacob, like those before him, could see the opportunity the stone maps presented. They were impossible to disprove therefore making their authenticity more believable. Historians, college professors, scientist and layman have all tried to explain the origin of these dubious artifacts. Some of the simplest questions about them cannot be answered. For example, how old are these stone maps?

Attorney General Bob Corbin was in Washington for a meeting and he talked to a friend of an FBI analyst who said the maps were at least one hundred years old, however Bob never observed any documentation supporting this statement. He was just told that the stone maps were investigated when M.O.E.L. Corporation was being investigated for fraud.

Dr. Charles Polzer, Jesuit historian at the University of Arizona (now deceased), believed the stone maps were a total fraud. Polzer told me personally no amount of research can convince him the stone maps were authentic. However, research has developed some interesting leads, but none of them can be properly documented. An early Arizona periodical had a brief story about some stone maps being found in some mountains in southern Sonora or northern Durango in Mexico. These maps were never linked to the Superstition Mountains or Arizona.

A small segment of Arizona historians believe the stone maps may have been used by the Baron of Arizona, James Addison Reavis, to help verify the legitimacy of his land grant claim to much of Arizona and New Mexico territory in the 1880’s. Reavis was a meticulous organizer and planner. He was also an expert forger. He changed documents in Spanish and Mexican archives to coincide with his claim to the Peralta-Reavis Land Grant a decade later. It would not have been difficult for him to have planned or used stone markers for his fraudulent Spanish land grant. There are several historians who suggest the stone maps may have been markers for such a purpose.

Still other stories exist as to the origin of these notorious stone maps. Fifty years ago it was rumored that a cowboy who lived along Queen Creek carved the stone maps and buried them near Black Point to confuse treasure hunters. This old cowboy did a lot of stonework for Clemans Cattle Company at the old Upper Fraser Ranch known today as the Reavis Ranch. The story is this old man was a stone engraver at a cemetery back East and gave up the job to become a cowboy in the West.

Finally, if indeed the Peralta Stone Maps were authentic, the United States Government would have confiscated them under the Antiquities Act. Today, if indeed, they are as old as many claim they are and of Spanish origin, they would be in a museum in Washington D.C. If these stones were what so many claim they would be a national treasure.

As you can see this is just another explanation for the infamous and notorious Peralta Stone Maps. The stone maps have created as many enemies as they have friends. The Peralta Stone Maps will survive as long as there are those who follow in the “Footsteps of Coronado’s Children.”

The Peralta Stone Maps are currently available for viewing at the Superstition Mountain Museum at 4087 N. Apache Trail (State Rt. 88), Apache Junction, AZ 85219-3845. For more information call 480-983-4888